The Power of an Apology and Forgiveness at Work

In teams it’s common to discover two or more people who don’t like each other. When you dig into it, you will often hear about the terrible things one person did to the other.

The deed, whatever it may have been, has created hurt, anger, and resentment. These feelings are the source of some bad behaviors, and the problem just drags on indefinitely.

Let’s say that one of those people is you. What might you do to get past the unfortunate thing that happened between you and your coworker. If you were the one who committed the offense, you have two options.

The usual approach

You could try to convince the other person that it was nothing but a misunderstanding and that you did not intend any harm. If this is true and you have a way of proving that to the other person, this might work.

I wouldn’t bet on this strategy. The person feels hurt. He sees your action as causing it and nothing you can say will change his mind.

Pursuing this option could make things worse because the other person will interpret your behavior as minimizing his feelings.

An apology is a better approach

How about this path instead? Tell the person you are sorry. It’s amazing what an apology can do to mend relationships.

You may not think it was all your fault. You may truly believe it was a misunderstanding. So what! The person is still hurt. Your team is affected by the ill-will between the two of you. That in itself should be enough to generate some remorse in you.


If you are on the side of being offended, you can wait for an apology which may never come or you can get over it. Are you hurt? Yep. Did the other person act like a jerk? For sure.

Again there are two paths to choose between, and you really do have a choice. The first keeps you mad and continues to bog down the team.

The second begins with forgiveness. You get over it and do your best to rebuild the relationship. This is an extremely powerful act in that it dissolves the dispute and sets an example for others to follow.

Is it easy? No. But it’s probably easier than trying to get the other person to do what you want. After all, you are in total control of your own thoughts and emotions.